It’s a common misconception that in an interview scenario it’s the interviewee who is under pressure to perform and win the interviewer round to the point at which they’ll be offered the job. In reality, however, an interview is a two-way street, and with more than one million vacancies currently available across the UK, you could argue that the power has actually shifted to the interviewee in some senses. The onus is now on the interviewer to build rapport with each candidate, highlight the benefits of working within their organisation and, ultimately, convince the interviewee that theirs is the best choice for their next career move. But how do you build rapport with a complete stranger in such a short space of time?

As well as ensuring that you think in advance about the language – both verbal and body – that you’ll use to make your interviewee feel comfortable in your presence, it’s helpful to review their CV, LinkedIn profile and educational background thoroughly to give you the best insight into what makes them tick. That way you’ll be able to drop references in to the interview, and that’ll show that you’ve taken the time to prepare for it rather than chosen to follow a templated formula.

Offer a drink
However many interviews you’d had in your career, it’s still a daunting proposition and one which can – and probably should – generate a few butterflies. Offering a drink is a helpful way to break the ice and can give both of you some breathing space. It also allows for some small talk to start the conversation and it demonstrates that you’re not in a rush.

Be positive
Smiling and making eye contact are good ways to engage your interviewee and to help them develop a level of confidence in you and the organisation. Asking simple kick-off questions such as ‘How has your day been so far?’ and/or ‘Did you have a good journey?’ can settle the nerves and allow the candidate to open up a little.

Give space
Rather than holding the interview in a small office, try to meet in a larger space that can allow you both to breathe. It can be helpful to remove what might be seen as a barrier between you – a desk for example – so maybe select a meeting room so that you can avoid the candidate feeling under the spotlight.

Ask interesting questions
In any interview, it’s important to stand out, and that’s as true for the interviewer as it is for the interviewee. One way that you can differentiate yourself as an employer is to ask each question and then patiently wait for the answer rather than pre-judging what the response might be or – even worse – jumping back in before the candidate has finished answering.

Talk about the company
Interviewees are potentially making the decision as to whether to join your organisation based on a few factors – reputation, brand image, office location and design – but the most persuasive factor is likely to be how you portray the business during the interview. You can build rapport by talking about the company’s history, where it is now and the plans for the future, and by emphasising that you’d love them to be part of the journey.

Allow questions
Even the least prepared candidate is likely to have a question or two, so be sure to allow time for those to be asked – and answered – in full. If you don’t have the answer to hand, commit to following up by email. Rapport can be lost in the blink of an eye if you don’t allow questions, or you gloss over a question you can’t answer.

Set out the next steps
Conclude the interview by explaining not only what will happen next, whether it’s a second interview or a decision, and the communication method you’ll use. Most importantly, however, stress that should the candidate have any queries in the meantime they can call or email you directly.

Rosa dos Santos, owner of Exact Sourcing, believes that employers can make recruiting harder for themselves by failing to focus on engaging and building rapport with their candidates. ‘In our experience, when it comes to interviews it’s common for employers to think only of how they are going to select the best candidates from a pile of CVs rather than addressing the issue of building rapport with each interviewee to make them want to join,’ says Rosa. ‘Clearly it will be important to ensure that the person who receives the job offer has the correct qualifications, experience and personality for the position. But if you haven’t attempted to build a rapport in that very first meeting there’s every chance they may decide not to accept the offer, and then you may well have let the best candidate slip through your fingers. It’s not rocket science, but it’s often overlooked, so we encourage all our clients to think carefully about how best to build rapport with their interviewees.’

Exact Sourcing is a recruitment agency in Cambridge and Newmarket. If you’d like to discuss how to structure your interviews and build rapport with your candidates, please contact us for an initial discussion.